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Adding A Watermark To Your Photographs 

© Michael Furtman


I’m often asked how to add a watermark (a semi-transparent copyright notice, signature, etc.) to a photograph, since doing so adds a bit of online security from those who would download the image and use it on their site. 

The technique is simple. I’m going to give instructions using Photoshop, but other image editing programs probably have similar features. 

First, if you want to use your signature, you’ll have to get it into your computer somehow. You can either sign your name on a piece of paper and then scan it in, or you can use a tablet device that allows you to draw on a computer. 

A signature isn’t necessary, only nice. You can create a type-based watermark using Photoshop. 

Using Your Signature: 

If you are using your signature, you first need to convert it into a transparent GIF file. Open the signature file in Photoshop. Using the Magic Wand, select the white area around the signature as well as selecting the insides of letters with loops. When everything in the background is selected, go to Select menu and choose “Inverse.” Only your signature should be selected.  

Now go to Edit, and select “Copy.” 

The next step is to go to File>New, and create a new background for your signature. Enter the dimensions, and make sure “transparent” is selected. You need to have some clue here about how big your uploaded photos will be. If you normally upload images at 800 pixels wide, you’ll want your signature sized to about 600 pixels. You could also size it to fit your full sized images, then after the watermark is applied, downsize those images to the size you post on your website. Now select OK. 

With the new background showing, go to Edit and hit “Paste.” Your signature should now be on the new transparent background (transparent backgrounds are usually shown as a checkerboard pattern). It’s probably a good idea to save it at this point. 

Open an image on which you want to place the watermark. Size it to your upload dimensions. Now activate the transparent background signature window. Go to Select, and choose “Select All” then go to Edit, and select “Copy.” 

Now with your destination image open, go to Layer, and New, then Layer. We’ll be placing your signature on this new layer. 

Double check, using the Layer Palette, to make sure the new layer is highlighted. If it isn’t, select it with your mouse. When it is selected, go to Edit, and choose “Paste.” Your signature should now be across the face of your image. 

We’re not quite done. You now want to fade that signature to the point where it is still visible, but doesn’t distract too awfully much from the image. Again using the layer palette, and with the new layer selected, look for the Opacity box near the top right. If you click on the arrow next to it, a slider will appear below. Drag the slider to the left until your signature fades to the level you wish – usually around 30%. 

The last step is to go to Layer, and select “Flatten Image.” The two layers are now one. At this point you can save the finished product. 

Obviously, there are a lot of steps here, so if you’re going to do this many times, you’ll want to record it as a Photoshop action. Then you can easily and automatically apply it to any number of images.  

Using Text: 

The process is much the same if you’re just going to use text to create your watermark.  

First, open the image on which you want the watermark. Size it if necessary. 

On the Tools menu, select the Text icon (a large “T”). Doing so automatically creates a new layer. Look just below the top of menu of Photoshop (where Edit, Image, etc., are located) and you’ll now see that you can select the font that you wish, font size, font color, and whether the text will be right, left, or center justified. I suggest you choose centered. 

Move your mouse to the center of the image (you’ll be able to move things around before you flatten it, so don’t panic if it’s off center) and type your name or whatever you’d like. If the font is too large or too small, highlight it with your mouse, and go up and change the font size. If your text isn’t located on the image where you’d like, move your cursor a little distance from it and it should turn to an arrow, at which point you can hold the mouse button down and drag it to where you want.  

Now go to the Layer palette, and making sure that you the new layer (on which your text is located – the other layer with the image on it will be called “background”) is selected, go up to the Opacity box, click on the arrow next to it, and drag the slider that appears to the left, until the text is faded satisfactorily. 

Finally, go to the top menu, select Layer, then “Flatten.” Now you can save your flattened, watermarked image as a JPG. No one can ever remove the watermark from these images. 

Again, it is best to record all these steps as an Action in Photoshop so you can apply the watermark easily to multiple images without going through all of these steps.  


COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  All photographs appearing on this site are the property of Michael Furtman. These photographs are protected by U.S. copyright laws and have been registered with the U.S. Copyright office. They are not to be downloaded or reproduced in any way without written permission. By entering this site you accept these terms.